As a clinical and educational psychologist who has practiced in the field for more than 20 years, I was struck by the article about Harry Kasper (“A father’s unstoppable need to know”).
I work closely and over time with families who have children with Asperger disorder or high-functioning autism. These young people gain access to the support offered by Chapter 766 in Massachusetts to assist them with the social, behavioral, and learning challenges that are part of their profile. They often are able to graduate high school.
At that point, the ongoing support that they still need to independently manage the demands of a complex world abruptly stops. Some are successful in post-secondary education, but many are unable to navigate this world despite strong cognitive potential. They are ill prepared for the vicissitudes of life, the necessary problem-solving, and the need for strong social skills and adaptation to the unexpected. They fall between the cracks of departments that are meant to support those with disabilities.
These individuals, as illustrated in the case of Kasper, who died of a heroin overdose, are vulnerable to those who may lure them in only to use them. I see the numbers of such individuals skyrocketing in the next five to 10 years.
These are people who can be contributing members of society with the right continuing support and training. Absent that support, they will become part of the disability program under Social Security, with minimal hope for any kind of a meaningful future.